Andrew Wilson-Dickson Andrew Wilson-Dickson

Keyboard player

I started piano lessons at Nower Lodge School, Dorking, at the age of seven. At the same time my parents hired an upright piano; Bell was the maker and I remember thinking that this was the explanation for the piano sounding like a set of bells (very out of tune and the dampers did not work). In spite of this I must have been captivated and encouraged by the baby grand at my grandmother's Kensington house. I was extremely lucky throughout my subsequent schooling to have excellent piano teaching and acquired a reasonable grounding in spite of my laziness in technical matters. My teachers were Dora Bridges at the New Beacon School and Robert Ferry at Marlborough College.

At a school music competition at about the age of 17 I was spotted by Sidney Watson (I had given a rather wild performance of Ravel's Toccata from the Tombeau de Couperin). He offered me a scholarship to Christ Church College Oxford, in spite of my dire A-level results, which I turned down (!) in favour of an Exhibition to Magdalene College Cambridge. During this period I had a few lessons from Lamar Crowson, and more from John Lill whom I found extremely helpful and inspiring.

At Marlborough I had quickly become captivated by the large and very noisy Harrison organ in the chapel. Visitors would be sometimes alarmed to hear Michael Lloyd and I bashing out the duet version of the Rite of Spring at high volume (it works very well as an organ piece).

At Magdalene College I was organ scholar, but the instrument at the time was one of the poorest of the Cambridge colleges and my keyboard-playing was largely on the piano: chamber music and solos, encouraged by occasional lessons from John Lill.

After a year at York University I was invited to become an organ scholar at York Minster (John Marsh was the other). For reasons I don't understand, Francis Jackson did not appoint an assistant organist, but worked solely with us two rather inexperienced students. He was often away on tour, which left us in charge of the entire musical outfit, to the consternation of the choirmen but to my great benefit. This experience led me to consider whether I should continue to work in the Anglican cathedral world, but in spite of an invitation, I decided that I needed a broader musical life.

At York I also developed an interest in the harpsichord, initially through my ability to improvise which I could adapt quickly to the reading of figured bass. This interest has remained, but not for a long time did I develop any responsible scholarly basis for my playing and I still have yet to receive a harpsichord lesson. Nonetheless, I have several concertos in my repertoire and an intimate knowledge of period chamber music and orchestral works. The musical satisfaction of playing with artists of the calibre of Alison Bury, Rachel Brown, Crispian Steele-Perkins (another Marlburian contemporary), Margaret Faultless and many others cannot be measured. Concerts with the Welsh Baroque Orchestra and Devon Baroque regularly challenge my continuo skills and occasionally give me the opportunity to play some of the concerto repertoire for harpsichord and organ.

On the piano I have had an equally rich experience, particularly in a duet partnership with James Walker, the pianist of the Archduke Trio at Leicester University. To some extent we toured, we broadcast, we commissioned and through this I got much of the duet repertoire under my fingers and some large-scale two-piano scores: Messiaen's Visions de l'Amen, Lutoslawski's Variations on a Theme of Paganini and several Bax scores, for example. During the subsequent 20 years at the RWCMD I have accompanied (very) large numbers of students for exams and recitals and developed a considerable knowledge of the standard chamber repertoire, coupled with fast sight-reading. I still do a certain amount, but am once more able to turn my attention to the solo repertoire. Being a founder member of the PM Ensemble for a dozen years has given me performance experience of a wide variety of contemporary scores – the big names, Welsh composers and my own music. My more recent partnership with the mezzo-soprano Buddug Verona James has renewed my contact with the song repertoire in its broadest form.

An undercurrent to this classical world is an ability in jazz and popular music, where I have occasionally had opportunities, much enjoyed by me. I wish I had more time to devote to them.